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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLADance Disassembled: Seeing Beyond the Curtain

Theaterfest presents a true student showcase

By Clara Polley

June 3, 2008 10:40 p.m.

During a time when students are stressing out about finals, UCLA theater students defy the panicked atmosphere by presenting the fruits of their creative works in this weekend’s Theaterfest, an annual festival celebrating plays, both original and published, produced by theater students.

For a few days each year, the UCLA theater department opens up all its doors to let students use the rehearsal and studio spaces for their projects, with no limitations on what can be done.

Theater Underground, an undergraduate group of theater students who help with student productions, organizes the festival each year.

Theaterfest provides students with all the necessary tools to bring their own projects to the stage, something that is difficult to do during the school year when both rehearsal spaces and time are rare.

Amanda Glaze, a fourth-year theater student, and Jack Nicolaus, a third-year theater student, are the main organizers of Theaterfest. Glaze and Nicolaus help students with their productions and make sure everything goes according to plan.

Glaze believes that it is crucial for students to experience theater outside of the classroom.

“You learn a lot of really wonderful things in your classes, but when it comes to really putting it into practice, there is not quite enough opportunity, and it can be a little bit stifling,” she said. “Which is why Theaterfest is always such a wonderful explosion because it’s really your chance to try everything you’ve been thinking in your head and everything you’ve been learning in your classes and experiment with stuff.”

Because the faculty is not involved in any of the productions, students can be creative in a much less pressured environment than usual, since nobody grades or judges their performances. Rather, it is an opportunity to share their work with other students in an open environment.

“The idea (of Theaterfest) is to create a really safe, loving place to kind of do it for your peers,” Nicolaus said.

Since there are no thematic restrictions or boundaries, the festival is a true reflection of how students approach the stage on their own and what topics concern them.

“It is so completely uncensored; I mean basically the administration unlocks the doors and turns their backs,” said Emmalinda MacLean, a third-year theater student.

Theaterfest usually features a broad variety of shows, ranging from traditional plays to improvisation to one-man shows to performance art.

It is the students’ passion and commitment to create something completely on their own that sets the projects at Theaterfest apart from projects students are assigned to do.

“It’s something they really love to do, rather than when you do a show in the theater program; sometimes you end up doing something which is not what you’re passionate about,” MacLean said.

In this year’s festival, MacLean and others are acting in a play called “Dictionary Love,” which deals with a beautiful yet complex relationship between a gay man and his straight, female roommate.

Sean Lewellyn, the director of “Dictionary Love,” said that as a student with an emphasis on acting, he gets a chance to try something new at Theaterfest.

“It’s been a while since I’ve (directed). It is cool because it gives kids who usually focus on something like acting or even design an opportunity to do whatever they want,” he said.

From an actor’s perspective, first-year acting student Eric Carlson who performs in “Dictionary Love,” added that the freedom that comes with a student production helps him grow as an actor.

“The rehearsal process is a lot more open to experimentation, and you are much more inclined to play, which I find makes it a lot easier to discover things,” he said.

And for the playwright of “Dictionary Love,” third-year theater student Brian Pugach, it is also about having a good time. He said that even though he chose a theme for his play that he hopes will engage and move people, he also wishes that other students will simply experience the excitement and passion of Theaterfest.

“A lot of the plays we do during the year are very intellectual and they ask us to think or take away a message; they expect something intellectual out of the audience,” Pugach said. “And while you can certainly take away something intellectual from “˜Dictionary Love,’ I hope that people will come and just enjoy it.”

Pugach said he knows he should probably be studying, but he finds the uninhibited and uncensored creative environment to be a rare and important opportunity.

“We have to do the theater that we love at some point during the year,” he said.

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Clara Polley
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